I'm not sure if it is a scientific fact or not, but, I think there is something said about having a preconceived idea , an image in your mind about what you look like before you look at yourself in a mirror. This is why when you "catch yourself" in a mirror or window, you may be surprised or aghast at what you see.
I have never been someone who fussed over hair/makeup/garment ensembles before leaving home; except during that social period in my late teens/early twenties when I was out till all hours having harmless fun. Really. I mean that; I have witnesses and accomplices who will attest to it.
For the most part of the past 10 years, I have relied on big eyes, good skin, a nice smile, and reasonably decent, though bohemian, clothes.
My mom was always conservatively dressed, with good Irish skin and lipstick as her only accessory. She taught me the mores of NOT staying out of the sun. I dressed seemingly well enough for most occasions, crediting my style to the events/ eras of my life; student, teacher, opera singer/audition ware, rehearsal ware, casual ware...but it seems that there was a change of some sort in the last decade.
And today, there in a glance from a mirror at Filene's Basement on the Upper West Side, (UWS), was one of those; "CUH-LICK" photo moments staring me back. My inward reaction was somewhere between, "oh dear," and, "damn, Suze was right."
While processing what I had just seen, in all its raw and 3-D glory, I came to realize that my boho chic had become boho frump. Tip to toe. The assessment of my likeness was blunt and unforgiving. I chuckled to myself thinking that Stacey and Brian from "What NOT to Wear" would pop out and take me hostage. As well they should.
Question: Is what I am visually communicating really what I am thinking of myself ?
If today was test day, the answer would be; I guess so.
It was midway thought the weekend; which was midway through autumn, midway through the academic semester; midway, (God willing), through my life. There I sat getting a pedicure thinking; am I this person that stared back at me for that moment, that walked all over the UWS ? Well, yeah. I am. I was.
Having gone into work that morning, I dressed WAY down in sweats, a tee shirt, old white sneakers, ( oh the shame), and donned my purple plum LLBean winter coat. My hair, freshly colored and trimmed, was...well, dry, up in a hair clip, and much to my dismay - not showing its finer self.
I looked frumpy. Schleppy. Sloppy. Un-noticeable. One of the unseen - not quite as invisible as a homeless person, but, clearly one of those extra NYers who blends into the crowd. Damn. When did that happen ?
Having slowly dropped some pounds I recently started wearing less "big" things, though I am clearly in a zone of discomfort. I like layered skirts, scarves, textures and colors. Some of my garments are too big, but I like them anyway. As far as buying new ones, I spend my clothing budget on different things at a time; currently I am overhauling tops/sweaters and the like.
I remember my sister-in-law telling me about the women in Atlanta who dressed to go shopping. That ole southern pageant type mentality - full wardrobe, hair and makeup style. I thought about the conversations my voice teacher and I used to have about the state of dress at the Met Opera; how it had de-evolved to a whisper above jeans and tee shirt; and seeing someone dressed up was an event in itself: one of the last bastions of formality slowly loosing its glamour.
While I am not one to ritually dress up for every outing, today was a wake up call. My inner self is happy and enjoys getting out and seeing the sites: I don't have to have handfuls of shopping bags - I like walking and taking it all in; the smells of NYC, the prattle of people on their cell phones, the chatter of children, and the kaleidoscope of offerings.
I have survived a lot, lived a lot, done a lot, and endeavor to do more. I have many projects going and I am excited about new opportunities. But you would not know it by seeing me today. Or, I fear, many other days.
So at 46 years old, my new question tonight is:
Could I let it all go if I never had it together ...and, can I get it back again ?
If I endeavor, just a few times a week to "step up" and make the effort to let the outside appearance match my inner essence, am I selling out ? Am I abandoning my boho nature and conforming to something that I don't subscribe to naturally ? Do appearances really count ?
Or does it come down to that naked realization: if what you are doing is not working, then do something different.
Boho Frump. Not working. Not liking the reflection.
I can change my reality - but I promise my family, friends and blog readers this; it's a change I believe in.